I've heard that dioxygen difluoride (a.k.a FOOF) would set fire or react with nearly everything including sand ,bricks or even ice. Is this true?

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    $\begingroup$ It generally explodes first. But chlorine trifluoride burns all that stuff, which is a reason it was used in V-2 rockets in WW II. $\endgroup$ – Ed V Apr 30 at 23:49
  • $\begingroup$ @EdV ClF3 was not used in V2 rockets though it was investigated as a self-igniting flamethrower. the problem was it tended to ignite the user, the apparatus, the manufacturing equipment and everything else, making it a little impractical. $\endgroup$ – matt_black May 1 at 0:02
  • $\begingroup$ @matt_black Thanks, I will have to check my source, which I think was John D. Clark’s Ignition! book. Always fun to go through again. $\endgroup$ – Ed V May 1 at 0:26
  • $\begingroup$ V2 propelent was ethanol + liquid oxygen. But ClF3 can light up most of stuff, like sand, glass, concrete or human body. $\endgroup$ – Poutnik May 1 at 0:26
  • $\begingroup$ @Poutnik I was thinking of chlorine trifluoride as the Hell on Earth payload. Just that. $\endgroup$ – Ed V May 1 at 0:36

It is hard to be sure as it is too reactive to test

FOOF has been made, though no sane person would want to repeat the most recent synthesis (see the paywalled article reporting it) as it involves passing oxygen a fluorine through a red hot metal tube. An earlier paper that tested its reactivity stored it as a solid at 90K to stop it from, well, exploding. Derek Lowe, in his hilarious blog "Things I Won't Work With" describes some of the (very low temperature) reactions:

And he’s just getting warmed up, if that’s the right phrase to use for something that detonates things at -180C (that’s -300 Fahrenheit, if you only have a kitchen thermometer). The great majority of Streng’s reactions have surely never been run again. The paper goes on to react FOOF with everything else you wouldn’t react it with: ammonia (“vigorous”, this at 100K), water ice (explosion, natch), chlorine (“violent explosion”, so he added it more slowly the second time), red phosphorus (not good), bromine fluoride, chlorine trifluoride (say what?), perchloryl fluoride (!), tetrafluorohydrazine (how on Earth. . .), and on, and on. If the paper weren’t laid out in complete grammatical sentences and published in JACS, you’d swear it was the work of a violent lunatic. I ran out of vulgar expletives after the second page. A. G. Streng, folks, absolutely takes the corrosive exploding cake, and I have to tip my asbestos-lined titanium hat to him.

Many other reactivity experiments were not possible because they are just too impractical with something so dangerously explosive at temperatures any normal person might want to conduct reactions at (anything much above liquid nitrogen is bad for FOOF).

So, I suspect, we don't know whether it would set fire to sand as nobody has ever been able to make enough of it to test that reactivity, or, at least, test it and survive.

FOOF's–far more benign–relative chlorine trifluoride, which is commercially available and has several uses, most certainly does set sand on fire. As rocket scientists know. This account is from John D Clarke's Ignition:

It is hypergolic with every known fuel, and so rapidly hypergolic that no ignition delay has ever been measured. It is also hypergolic with such things as cloth, wood, and test engineers, not to mention asbestos, sand, and water—with which it reacts explosively.

So, given ClF3 is far less reactive than FOOF, it seems likely that FOOF, too, would set fire to sand. But with any luck we will never know for sure as nobody will be so monumentally, suicidally insane to try making enough of it to find out.

  • $\begingroup$ (+1) Ah, wonderful answer! This is a nice example of what a high quality answer looks like! And Derek Lowe’s blog is sweet: the iron man PPE and Bunsen’s cacodyl cyanide episode are hilarious in a chemistry way! $\endgroup$ – Ed V May 1 at 1:25

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